Dear Jack (or Leo, or Oscar, or Luka, or any of the other names your father says sound either too effeminate or like they belong to old Jewish men trying to return soup at a deli, though does he have any better suggestions, is what I wanna know):
At the time of this writing, I am approximately 7 months pregnant with you. You’ve already changed my life quite a bit: for starters, you’ve made my ass absolutely tremendous, and I’m now prone to peeing at inopportune moments during concerts. Nonetheless, I think about meeting you all the time, and I suspect you will be nothing less than incredible. It’s Nov. 9, 2016, the day after Election night. By the time you are born, Donald Trump, aka a piece of wizened candy corn with pubic hair stuck to it, will be inaugurated as president. I believe Trump is a very bad man for many reasons. He is violently xenophobic, brutally misogynistic, and weirdly averse to using articles when he speaks. His win is a testament to many Americans’ fear, ignorance and hatred, and his presidency will be a blight on history for quite some time.
Unfortunately, you will be born into that presidency, which is not a choice that either your father or myself would have made for you. On the way to the voting booths, we were so thrilled to be able to cast our votes for Hillary Clinton, so we could tell you that you were there when the first female president was elected. (We even made a smug little Instagram video about it, which seems pretty short-sighted, in retrospect).
But because of, among other things, the arrogance of the U.S. media, the fragility of the electoral college system, and the unfathomable anger and bitterness of a group of Americans that live very far away from me and your dad, that is unfortunately not what happened.
Because you will be born a white male in an administration that inherently rewards white men, I am not nearly as terrified for your future as I am for your female or black or Hispanic brothers and sisters, as they have just been born into a country that has unequivocally told them that their lives matter less than yours. But because you and your generation have a chance to start anew and fix everything else that my generation has f*cked up, you need to know that you have a responsibility to make things better and succeed where we have failed. You have a responsibility to be better than the world that Donald Trump wants to build for you. And because you are my son, I have a responsibility to teach you how to do that, so consider this my first lesson for you.
As a child of the Trump administration, you will be taught that the color of your skin and the nature of your genitals will enable you to navigate any spaces and commit any crime you want, regardless of who you hurt or whose boundaries you violate along the way. You will be taught that because of your race and gender, you are entitled to no-holds-barred access to women’s bodies, that you can grab any p*ssy as casually as you would a piece of jumbo shrimp at a buffet. And worse, you will be taught that you will be rewarded for your behavior, because what better reward is there than President of the United States of America?
You will be taught that people with darker skin are rapists and thieves, and that people who wear different clothes and eat different kinds of meat than you do don’t even belong in this country in the first place. And if you ever say, “Well, don’t all people belong in this country?” you will be taught to shut up, because you see, as a child of the Trump administration, you will be taught that these people, with their long robes and longer last names, aren’t actually people at all.
I already have the urge to protect you from all of these evils and many others that I probably can’t even anticipate yet. But I never would have imagined that one of the evils I will have to shield you from is your president, or your fellow Americans, whose fear and anguish and confusion over cultures they don’t understand assisted him in his rise to power.
But most importantly — and this is the part that I really can’t stand – as a child of the Trump administration, you will be taught that it is OK to be cruel. You will be taught that rape jokes are funny. You will be taught that fat jokes are funny. You will be taught that mocking people for their disabilities is funny. You’ll even be taught that joking about gas chambers is funny, even though it would’ve been far from amusing to your paternal grandparents, who lost their entire families to the ovens of Auschwitz.
You will be taught that having fun at marginalized people’s expense is a vaunted American tradition, not a baser impulse to be avoided at all costs. And that is one lesson I would rather die than let Trump teach you.
Part of what is so terrifying about becoming a parent is the knowledge that there are certain evils you can never protect your child from: war, rape, schoolyard bullies, getting stood up on your first date. Even though you haven’t been born yet, I already have the urge to protect you from all of these evils and many others that I probably can’t even anticipate yet. But I never would have imagined that one of the evils I will have to shield you from is your president, or your fellow Americans, whose fear and anguish and confusion over cultures they don’t understand assisted him in his rise to power.
I want to teach you to be the man that Trump could never be, the man who stands up for the weak and disenfranchised instead of deriving amusement from their misery.
I am truly terrified for you to grow up during a Trump administration. But one thing I will not, cannot let happen is for it to compromise your sense of decency, fairness, and right and wrong. I don’t want you to teach you that sex is an exchange of power, or that women’s bodies are like giant pieces of jumbo shrimp lying on a buffet platter, there for the taking. I want to teach you that sex is a beautiful and silly and transformative thing that all humans should experience, provided it’s built on a foundation of mutual consent and respect. I don’t want to teach you that making fun of people with disabilities is OK. I want to teach you to stand up to the bullies who do, to dry your friend’s tears and take him out for an ice cream.
Most of all, more than anything, I want to teach you that being decent and being brave are the two most important things you can be, more than being smart or handsome or strong or good at sports or having a lot of followers on Instagram. I want to teach you not to be afraid of speaking out against daily injustices, so it becomes second nature to you. I want you to call your guy friends out when they make rape jokes, to kick and twist and shout to the heavens when you see a Muslim friend in a hijab being bullied.
This election has given you and all other young white men a mandate to be as sh*tty and angry and hateful and blind to others’ oppression as possible, without facing the consequences. I want to teach you to ignore that mandate. I want to teach you to be the man that Trump could never be, the man who stands up for the weak and disenfranchised instead of deriving amusement from their misery.
Be the man who succeeds where men of your mother’s and father’s generation failed. Be the man on the right side of history, not the dumb, white and angry one. Be a good man in the face of moral ambiguity. Be a gentle man in the face of brutality and uncouthness. Be a decent and optimistic man in the face of cravenness and cynicism, two traits that undeniably drove Trump’s rise to power. And if you can do that, then you will make all the pain your parents have felt over this election worth it.
Right now, I’m sitting in my bed, feeling you kick intermittently and listening to children play in the park across the street. I don’t know if they know about the country being torn in half last night, or if their own moms and dads were able to sit them at the breakfast table and deliver the news face-to-face, but I do know this: in just a few months, you’ll be out there joining them. Even in this time of unfathomable darkness, I still can’t wait to meet you and find out just how incredible you are. And even in this time of unfathomable darkness, I can’t wait for you to go out into the world and prove to everyone else how much better and how much stronger the next generation of men will be.